Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, on Tuesday asked the Etowah County Commission to consider a resolution in support of legislation that regulates wind farms in Alabama.
There are no regulations in place, and Williams said that is why he supports the legislation.
The bill, referred to as the Alabama Wind Energy Conversion Systems Act of 2014, would impose regulations for effective and efficient use of wind energy conversion systems and require them to be regulated by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
The wind turbines are about 570 feet tall and 80 feet around, Williams said, and blasting of about 30 feet deep is expected to mount them in the ground.
Tthere are expected to be between 40 and 45 at Cherokee Rock Village in Cherokee County and along Shinbone Ridge on Lookout Mountain in Etowah County from a project announced by Pioneer Green Energy of Austin, Texas.
“This is a massive project,” Williams told commissioners.
Two lawsuits have been filed by residents, one in Etowah County and one in Cherokee County, to halt the construction.
Williams said he has met with every power provider in the state and there is nothing that regulates the energy source.
The Gadsden City Council and Leesburg Town Council have passed resolutions supporting the legislation, he said, and the Cherokee County Commission passed a resolution asking that the Pioneer Green project be put on hold until TVA gets an impact study.
Williams said he currently opposes the project because there are no regulations in place.
“What happens if they cease operations?” he asked. “There is nothing to protect the residents if a company just walks away and leaves (the turbines) there.”
He said it would cost millions of dollars to have the wind turbines removed if they’re abandoned. He favors regulations that would require a bond on each turbine.
Williams has met with Pioneer Green officials who plan to build the wind farm, but have no plans to operate it.
He said it is vital that some regulations be in place. His bill is patterned after similar legislation for an area of New York state where the wind farms have been successful.
There are several proposed wind farm sites across the state, he pointed out, and all are in non-regulatory areas.
“We would want them to build responsibly,” Williams said. “There is nothing to hold their feet to the fire.”
Williams said some residents already have signed agreements with Pioneer Green granting the company the right to build the towers on their property. He has read some of those contracts and said they do not favor the property owners.
Patrick Simms, chief administrative officer with the Etowah County Commission, said the commission has no role in granting authority for the wind turbines, but said an economic impact study shows the project would give the community an economic boost. The study projects $1.2 million to the general fund and $600,000 to schools.
Williams said he knows those numbers are enticing, but the cost to pay for one wind turbine to be removed would probably take all that.
Simms said, “There are no requirements in place. There should be. That’s just common sense.”
Williams said he also has local bills ready to be introduced for Cherokee and Etowah counties should statewide legislation fail.
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